I was not aware of the recent shooting in Arizona until my wife reported to me on Saturday afternoon that a Congresswoman and a Judge had been shot at a rally. I was instantly shocked and wanted to know more about what happened, who was injured and what the motivation behind the shooting was. After sifting through the mountain of speculation, rumor, and downright bitter finger-pointing (I highly recommend Dennis Mikolay’s column on that particular issue) I was finally able to find out some of the facts and put faces to some of the names of the victims and even to the perpetrator of the crime.
Many people are struggling to make sense of what is clearly a senseless act. While it appears as of this writing that the gunman planned to kill the congresswoman it still cannot explain how so many people could have been cut down, some as young as nine, in the prime of their lives and with so much more they could become and give to the world around them.
The truth is, moments like these happen every day. Every day around this world, even around this country, even around our own community, people are dying. Every minute of every day someone is facing a life-threatening illness, someone is cut down in the beginning of their life, and people are suffering.
In the face of this, how do we carry on? It would seem easier to just lay everything down, to just stop and let the world spin on around us.
Two thousand years ago, a preacher from Tarsus named Paul encouraged the people of his time in the face of death and senselessness when he said: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).
The answer in so many ways to the senselessness of the world is each other. In a world that threatens to separate us and cause us to feel alone, we must understand that we are not here to be by ourselves, but to reach out to others from our own experiences and lives. Paul learned the hard way from his own life that causing pain was not nearly as rewarding as giving his life in service to people and being a person who focused on the needs of others.
We may never truly know what motivated this man to kill men, women and children. We can only stand together in saying that these people in Arizona are not alone. We stand with them. We may be an entire nation away, but we stand as a nation who understands pain, who understand loss, and who understand what it may be like to be in their position. We offer our prayers and thoughts to those who have died and we lift up our hearts and voices to stand in unity with other people in pain.
But we go a step further. We may not know Jared Loughner. We may not know what motivated him or what caused him to do what he did. But we are not him. This is the most important fact of all. And because we are not him, we can follow Jesus’ command to love our enemies and pray for them. The ultimate enemy of evil is in our ability to not stoop to its low. While we may way to have a visceral, physical reaction to this man we have to rise above the feeling that caused this man to open fire. We must pray for him, and we must pray for all those who are currently waiting in the wings to follow in his footsteps.
We must unite with one voice to tell those who wish to perpetrate violence against us that we will be silent no more. We will fear no more. We will no longer allow senseless violence to leave us feeling alone and disconnected from one another. We will be those who allow comfort to flow out of our lives in into the lives of others.
It’s time to turn our hearts – for everyone